Freelance Ghostwriting: Who Wrote That?

Does freelance ghostwriting make sense for your business? Before you move forward, make sure you know the basics.

For years, I've been one of the most prolific writers in the personal finance space. But the truth is much worse than you think. Not only do I write posts with my byline, but I also provide freelance ghostwriting services. And not just in the financial blogging realm. You might have read something I wrote without even realizing it. I ghostwrite articles for newsletters, ebooks, and even hardcopy books. But I'm far from the only ghostwriter running around.

Indeed, there are plenty of ghostwriters for hire around the world. Additionally, freelance ghostwriting is increasingly prevalent as entrepreneurs, executives, and others try to free up time for other projects. Additionally, there are those who have interesting ideas but don't feel confident with their ability to express themselves in writing.

What is Ghostwriting?

You probably know what ghostwriting is. It's when you write something, but someone else puts their name on it. As a freelance ghostwriter, I've written op-eds that have appeared in the Wall Street Journal. I've written on behalf of thought leaders, CEOs, politicians, and … other freelance writers.

Of course, as a true ghostwriter, you can't spill the beans about whose name is on what you wrote. And you have to be able to look past the fact that someone else is getting credit for your hard work. Sometimes, when I see something that has done well on a major site, I have to take a deep breath: It's the agreement I made. And being paid for the piece was enough at the time — and will still have to be enough.

How to Charge for Freelance Ghostwriting

Because ghostwriting is all guts and no glory, it makes sense to charge more for this service. I often add a premium to ghostwritten pieces. It's not just about staff writing, either. Sometimes people contract with you to ghostwrite on specific projects. Depending on the outlet, situation, and other factors, I might tack on an extra $50 to $1,000 for a ghostwritten article.

For ghostwriting books, I have a different rate scale. I automatically just charge what I charge to ghostwrite books and add more to it based on length, research, and how much time I spend meeting with and interviewing the subject.

Before you start any freelancing gig that involves ongoing writing, it's a good idea to make sure you are clear on whether or not you are expected to provide ghostwritten pieces. For example, if you're providing regular content to a website, find out if you're getting a byline. Determine the percentage of bylined pieces and ghostwritten pieces and figure out a rate accordingly.

It's important to nail this down upfront because it's not yours if your byline isn't on it and you've been paid for the content and transferred the rights. Spilling the beans isn't exactly the ethical thing to do. And once you have a contract, you can't ask for more.

Be sure to include whether ghostwriting is part of your freelancing. Put it in writing. That way, if they do get rid of your byline, and they're not supposed to, you can take care of the matter.

Should You Ghostwrite for Others?

I don't think too much about ghostwriting since it has been part of my freelance writing career since almost the beginning. However, I know that other writers have issues with the idea of ghostwriting. Some want their names on everything they write and have an issue with allowing someone else to take credit for something they didn't actually write.

The ethical issues are thorny. On one hand, someone is putting their name on something they didn't write. However, on the other hand, someone paid for a specific product. Once the price is paid, they own it and can do what he or she wishes with it.

How you view freelance ghostwriting probably depends on how you view your own work. To tell the truth, I view myself as someone providing a specific service. As a result, other than the occasional twinge when I wish I received credit for something that appears to have gained a lot of positive attention, I generally don't worry about what my clients do with something they bought and paid for.

As long as what they paid for was ghostwriting.

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